Literature and Film as Modern Mythology

By William K. Ferrell | Go to book overview

Appendix A
Midterm Perspective

Will these novels and films be read or viewed by Americans of the twenty-fifth century? Only time determines what lasts into future generations. Two classics that are universally recognized are Huckleberry Finn, published in 1895, and The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1936. It is interesting to debate what makes these classic, while other stories, written before and after and presenting many of the same ideas, are so quickly forgotten. It is also interesting to note that both of these novels continue to be read and studied in academia and popular culture. Of the motion pictures made from these two literary masterpieces, only The Grapes of Wrath became a classic film. Why not one of the many film versions of Huckleberry Finn? An explanation may be explained that the surrealistic film version of The Grapes of Wrath is able to retain the metaphorical truths of the narrative while because of the romantic nature of Huckleberry Finn, a director is unable to project the coming-of-age archetype from which Mark Twain derives his story.

Perhaps a better example would be 1953's From Here to Eternity. The novel was popular for a short time during the 1950s, probably because the story's setting is a military post in Hawaii immediately preceding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. There are several reasons the novel quickly lost its appeal, the main one being that it is overly written. One chapter, for example, spends six or seven pages describing the interior of a cabin near the post where a crap game is going to be held. The minute details go far beyond that necessary to convey the setting. The film, on the other hand, one of Hollywood's best, winning Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director ( Fred Zinnemann), Cinematography, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress--Frank Sinatra for his portrayal of the tragic Maggio and Donna Reed for her portrayal of a prostitute. All of the elements of film came together, making this movie a memorable one.

First and foremost, we must recognize that literature appeals to a somewhat

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